Friday, March 25, 2011

The Friday 4: Best-ever Billy Joel Songs

Title Continued: excluding "Piano Man" b/c it's just not fair to include it 

Billy Joel is my favorite singer of all-freaking-time. I've seen him in concert twice - 1999 and circa 1993 - and would loooooooooooove to go again. 

Forget about the 3 marriages (that's not so bad for show biz, baby!), the, um, drunk driving and unchecked alcoholism (which are NOT acceptable), and whatever other complaints you might have. Let's, instead, focus on the fact that he's been a music icon for decades, that his songs are marvels of sound and emotion, and that his voice soothes me. Picking these songs - 4?! how can I be expected to settle for 4 measly songs?! - is quite the task, but I'm asking myself, "If I could only have 4 Billy Joel songs for the rest of forever, which could I not live without?" (Actually, we can't forget "Piano Man"! I get to have 5!) 

Here's what I've got, though 
 a. I'm willing to entertain reasonable, well-argued oppositions backed up with sufficient evidence; and 
b. I reserve the right to revise this list at a later date or various later dates. 

4.  "She's Always a Woman" from The Stranger (1977) 

She's frequently kind / and she's suddenly cruel / She can do as she pleases / she's nobody's fool / And she can't be convicted / she's earned her degree / and the most she will do / is throw shadows at you / but she's always a woman to me 

This song is just a lovely evocation of what honest-to-goodness adoration is - loving someone's flaws and foibles as well as all the good stuff. And - yeah, yeah, get ready to laugh - it's the song that I, for years in high school, wished some guy would play for me and say, "This is what I think about you." And then, of course, I would fall madly in love with him - or at least agree to a second date, which I seemed incapable of doing at the time. 

3.  "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," also from The Stranger 

Nobody looked any finer / or was more of a hit at the Parkway Diner / We never knew we could want more than that out of life / Surely Brenda and Eddie would always know how to survive 

Okay, this song is a perfect mix of fast and slow (but not too slow). You can work out to it (this, however, might tell you something about the intensity of my workouts . . . ), you can get nostaligic to it, you can jam in the car to it. I've loved it for a long time, but as I get older, I appreciate what it's saying more and more and more. 

2.  "Summer, Highland Falls" from Turnstiles (1976) 

They say that these are not the best of times / but they're the only times I've ever known / And I believe there is a time for meditation / in cathedrals of our own / Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes / and I can only stand apart and sympathize / For we are always what our situations hand us / It's either sadness or euphoria 

Sing it, Billy Joel, sing it. I had a hard time deciding b/t this and #1. But, I went with the other b/c it was my favorite all the way back during the summer before 9th grade, when I was still 3 years away from hearing of this song for the first time. For me, that's a sufficient tie-breaker. But, I will say that I wept and wept - probably even more than when he played "Piano Man" - when Billy Joel played this at his 1999 concert. I'd never heard it before, and his live performance was enough to win me over 200%. 

Side note: Turnstiles is a totally under-rated album. "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," "Angry Young Man," "New York State of Mind," "Miami 2017" - this is classic stuff. If you haven't listened to it, I highly recommend you do.

1.  "The Longest Time" from An Innocent Man (1984) 

I had second thoughts at the start / I said to myself / Hold on to your heart / Now I know the woman that you are / You're wonderful so far / And it's more than I'd hoped for 

I don't have much to say, except this song gets me every time. It's hopeful and melancholic all at once, and it's so fun to sing along with. This song reminds me that sometimes you just have to embrace the uncertainty, let things flow, let them happen - and have a little faith that they'll work out. (I'm known for being able to listen to the same tune over and over again for, like, hours [sound familiar . . . Amanda?], and this is a definite pick for the "repeat" button.) 

*(Very) Honorable Mentions: "Two Thousand Years" (River of Dreams); "Goodnight, Saigon," (The Nylon Curtain); "I Go to Extremes" (Storm Front); "An Innocent Man" (An Innocent Man); and "Only the Good Die Young" (The Stranger)

1 comment:

  1. I'm impressed: 4 (or even 5) songs to listen to for the rest of your life from your favourite musician? I doubt I could do that with someone I kind-of-only-sort-of like, let alone someone whose music I love.